More evacs lifted

UPDATE: 9:00 p.m.

The number of evacuation orders in the Grand Forks area has been lowered again, with just 151 addresses remaining under order.

These properties are in the downtown and North Ruckle areas.

Those with questions can contact the Emergency Operations Centre at 1-888-747-9119.

ORIGINAL: 3:00 p.m.

The Regional District of Kootenay Boundary said evacuation orders have been lifted for about 1,400 properties, leaving about 326 addresses to go by Monday afternoon.

Emergency operations centre co-ordinator Chris Marsh said the evacuation orders have been downgraded to evacuation alerts as a precautionary move, but that more flooding of the catastrophic scale already seen isn't anticipated.

"(The alerts are) simply to allow us a bit of time to make sure the hot weather we're having this weekend and will continue to have this week does not threaten any homes with continued high water," Marsh said.

A few of the more damaged communities — including the neighbourhood of North Ruckle in Grand Forks — are taking longer to assess, as they require inspections from Interior Health before they can be deemed safe, he said.

Twenty pairs of firefighters fanned out across the region this weekend, assessing damage at each property and assigning it a coloured placard based on what they find.

While officials say they've been happy to find the majority of properties have been deemed safe, some residents will return to find yellow or red placards on their doors, indicating the need for a certified inspection or that the building has been deemed unsafe to occupy.

Homes that were placed on evacuation order because of lost road access, rather than safety on the property, will not have placards.

Members of the Canadian Armed Forces remain in the province to assist in flood protection preparations. While about 100 were stationed at Grand Forks, they are being redeployed to other parts of the province that might still be faced with flooding.

Military personnel continue to bolster a large gabion and sandbag wall to protect residences in the Twin Lakes area, the regional district of Okanagan-Similkameen said Monday.

The regional districted issued evacuation orders to four properties six kilometres west of Keremeos, due to the threat to life and safety, on Monday.

A map posted by the Fraser River Regional District website that shows locations where evacuation orders are in place indicated the most recent being 18 properties around undiked areas around Nicomen Island and nine properties next to Harrison Bay.

-With files from The Canadian Press


Swept away by mudslide

A couple from Saskatchewan got more adventure than they bargained for while travelling in B.C. this week, when they got swept off a cliff by a mudslide.

The woman's cousin, Don Struther, said Gabe Rosescu and Sheri Niemegeers were heading to Nelson, B.C. at the time.

"They were driving down the road, happy go lucky, excited to see their buddy. And Gabe said all of a sudden they saw one tree kind of fall right onto the road," Struthers said.

"They didn't have time to hit the brakes or anything and, before they knew it, they were engulfed by mud and trees. And that's where their memory goes blank."

A firefighter from Lloydminster, Alta. arrived at the scene first, and heard Rosescu crying out for help.

"They were pretty much chest-deep in mud and trees and branches," Struthers said.

Rosescu was airlifted to Kelowna, where he is now recovering from head injuries and a broken orbital bone. Niemegeers was taken to a hospital in Trail, where she is being treated for a broken sternum and ankle. 

Therapy cow gives birth

Gracie the blind cow was rescued from slaughter last year, and now she is a proud new mother and therapy animal.

The Semiahmoo Animal League Inc., also known as SALI, rescued Gracie and  a calf named Peanut from a nearby beef farm in 2017. Peanut was an orphaned calf who immediately bonded with Gracie, and staff subsequently discovered Gracie was pregnant. 

"We have never had cows before, let alone a pregnant cow, so it was a huge learning curve for us,” the founder of SALI, Keryn Denroche, said.

A live "cow cam" was set up to let community members enjoy the experience as well. 

"It was so exciting. All our volunteers and our entire community was involved,” Denroche said. “We had people all over the world following us because they knew this little baby cow was going to be born any minute.”

Baby Clover was born March 29, and is proving popular with visiting children. She and her mother teach kids about the importance of empathy toward all living things. 

Her birth was broadcast live online to many watchers from around the world. Clover is the first animal born at SALI, and she, her mother and Peanut are thriving.

-With files from CTV Vancouver



Arrest in double shooting

Police have arrested a man following a targeted double shooting in Langley Friday which resulted in the two targets being hospitalized, and the woman losing her baby.

Carleton Stevens, a 37-year-old Surrey resident, was arrested Sunday evening around 8 p.m. for the East Vancouver shooting.

He was picked up near 154A Avenue and Fraser Highway in Surrey. He has been charged with one count of attempted murder and one count of illegal possession of a firearm. 

The two victims of the shooting, a 31-year-old woman and a 23-year old man, are currently in recovery, though the woman's condition is more serious than the man's.

VPD say no more charges are expected in this matter, and the issue is now in the hands of the courts.

-With files from CTV Vancouver

Pixar at Science World

From Wall-E's wide eyes to Dory's relentless cheer, Pixar's animated characters have a way of tugging on heart strings, and a new exhibit is giving a glimpse at the science behind the film studio's most famous creations.

For the next seven months, visitors to Science World in Vancouver will have a chance to get a behind-the-scenes look at the work of bringing the animation to life.

"Basically, it's going to take you in and show you a little bit about the magic behind how Pixar makes their fabulous films," said Rob Lunde, a curator with Science World.

Spread out over nearly 1,115 square metres, the exhibit offers hands-on experiences where people can experiment with how light changes emotion, play with a character's expression and learn about different kinds of digital cameras.

Life-size recreations of fan favourites can be spotted throughout the show, including Mike and Sully from "Monsters Inc." and Buzz Lightyear from "Toy Story." Another display shows off a human-sized set piece that the creators of "A Bug's Life" used to determine what the world would look like from the perspective of the film's tiny stars.

The exhibit also gives visitors a chance to learn more about the diverse range of people working on Pixar films and how they use science, technology, engineering and math to make movies.

Traditionally, people who went to school for engineering or math didn't expect to work in the entertainment industry, but Pixar shows just how broad job opportunities have become for people with technical backgrounds, Lunde said.

Sprinkled throughout the exhibit are interviews with physicists, mathematicians and engineers who have all had a hand in creating some of Pixar's biggest hits.

They talk about how they combine the latest technology with traditional story telling to create the worlds and characters that fans around the globe have come to know and love.

"At the end of the day, Pixar films are made by people. The computers are the tools, but at the end of the day, it's the people," he said.

Police issue groper warning

Surrey RCMP are warning the public after a woman was groped Sunday.

The victim was walking near 144th Street and 76th Avenue about 5:15 a.m. when she was grabbed by the arm and groped by a male suspect who was passing in the opposite direction.

The woman fought back and the suspect fled. 

The suspect is described as a South Asian male, about 30 years old, five feet seven inches tall, with a medium build, and short facial hair. He is possibly associated to a brown or grey sedan. 

Police are appealing to the public for any information that may lead to the suspect's identity.

They advise women to take precautions.

Anyone with information is asked to call Surrey RCMP at 604-599-0502, or CrimeStoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or www.solvecrime.ca.

Langley grow-op burns

It took fire crews more than 12 hours to douse a licensed marijuana grow-op in Langley Saturday night.

CTV News Vancouver reported that the fire broke out in the converted barn near 256 Street and 48 Avenue, around 10:40 p.m.

Deputy fire chief Bruce Ferguson told CTV they had no choice but to let it burn and make sure the fire didn't spread.

"We did have some concerns to a farm to the north; it had a barn with animals," he said. "They were concerned their barn was going to catch fire. So we [sent] a crew over."

There were no reports of injuries to people or animals. 

Ferguson said the barn, about 18 metres wide and 100 metres long, used to grow mushrooms but had since been converted into a legal cannabis growth facility licensed by Health Canada.

They are still investigating the cause but Ferguson said he got the impression it was electrical in nature.

"There have always been inherent risks with grow-ops because of high heat that's generated [and the] electrical installation," he said. "But more so in the past when they were all illegal and doing the electrical themselves."

with files from CTV

Evacuation orders rescinded

Evacuation orders for 175 properties affected by flooding in Boundary have been rescinded.

Nearly 350 people in Grand Forks, Electoral Area D, Christina Lake, Midway and Area E are free to return to their homes or businesses today — after rapid damage assessments. The majority of properties assessed were in the City of Grand Forks.

In a press release, the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary stated that several hundred homes evacuated due to loss of road access after flooding will also have their orders rescinded once access is restored.

"These homes do not require damage assessments (RDA) and owners will not see assessment placards on their doors. Even in areas where floodwaters caused little to no damage, evacuation orders can only be rescinded once properties have been verified as safe to occupy."

The rapid damage assessments will continue today with the goal of completing nearly all assessments by May 21.

“We are now completely focused on getting as many people as possible back home and back into their businesses as soon as it’s safe for them. The stress has been enormous for everyone, and getting home is the first of many steps toward recovering from this disaster,” said Roly Russell, chair of the RDKB board of directors.

In a span of 53 hours between May 18 and 19 the RDKB mobilized, trained and deployed 20 RDA teams in the region. Those teams were able to assess 387 addresses in three hours on May 19 using a mobile inspection report that was then uploaded in real time to a GIS-based mapping system in the EOC. Planners are required to verify that data against existing records to ensure orders are rescinded for the correct properties. Previous floods have required cumbersome paper-based inspections carried out by a small number of building professionals. This new system will allow the RDKB to inspect structures and get the majority of people back in their homes where it is safe to do so by the end of the day May 21.

“The City of Grand Forks is working closely with the RDKB to restore access to downtown businesses. We all know the business community and want to see them recover as quickly as possible,” said Grand Forks Mayor Frank Konrad.

Waters could rise again later in the week if we receive heavy rain, so the RDKB encourages Boundary residents to keep sandbags in place until more high elevation snow has melted in the coming weeks.

The rising water level in the Kettle River watershed has also increased the risk of sloughing, erosion and bank instability in multiple locations across the Boundary. Thirty-nine addresses in the Grand Forks area have been issued hazard notices due to potentially unsafe riverbank conditions.

Anyone whose home is on a riverbank and who is concerned about riverbank stability should stay clear and report concerns to the Emergency Operations Centre 1-888-747-9119.

Four hikers saved on summit

Four lost hikers were rescued from one of the summits at Mount Seymour on Saturday afternoon by search and rescue crews.

The hikers, all in their 20s, were reported missing in the Suicide Creek area on the mountain early on Saturday. They were rescued at about 2 p.m. by North Shore Rescue crews.

Search manager Doug Pope said the hikers accidentally ended up on Pump Peak, Seymour's first summit, and were ill-equipped for the steep, snowy slope.

“They were pretty much stuck... They were afraid for their lives," Pope told CTV.

Pope advised that anyone planning to hike the North Shore mountains this weekend should have proper gear such as hiking boots and warm layers if they plan to hike above the snow line.

He said May long weekend is typically a busy time for the volunteer organization.

“It might be a nice day down in Vancouver right now … Up here there’s still snow … It’s still winter conditions.”

Saturday's save was the 42nd rescue by North Shore Rescue since Jan. 1, which the organization said is the most rescues they've ever had to make by mid-May.

- with files from CTV Vancouver


Catastrophic surge avoided

As efforts begin to shift from response to recovery in some British Columbia communities already gutted by flooding, hundreds of people in other areas of the province are ready to evacuate their homes at a moment's notice.

Officials says the second catastrophic surge of flooding they anticipated for Friday and Saturday in the Boundary region, including the devastated community of Grand Forks, B.C., never came — thanks to lower temperatures and less rainfall than forecasted.

And while those areas are not in the clear yet — with 130 per cent more snowpack remaining at higher elevations than is typical for this time of year — officials are hopeful the worst is over.

"We are seeing those risk levels abetting and we're working really hard to get everyone back in their homes," said Chris Marsh, emergency operations centre co-ordinator for the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary.

Many areas remain flooded, and evacuation orders are still in place for about 3,000 residents of the area.

About 20 rapid damage assessment teams are going door to door and using placards to mark those buildings with little or no damage. Assessments will continue through Sunday, Marsh said, with the hope that officials can begin rescinding evacuation orders "very quickly" where it's appropriate.

But as officials prepare to switch gears from response to recovery, they are mindful of the massive job ahead of them.

"The built infrastructure piece, that's the simplest part of recovery," said Roly Russell, chairman of the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary.

He said the psychological and social recovery will be much more challenging.

"The shock, maybe, is starting to pass and now the long-term implications and the stress and the emotional burden is starting to show up on people and in families. And that's going to be a big, big task to stickhandle through," he said.

In other parts of the province, residents and emergency crews remain on high alert.

Hundreds of homes and businesses in the unprotected flood plain along British Columbia's lower Fraser River could be asked to evacuate in the coming days, as rapid melt from snowpack continues to raise water levels.

Approximately 260 properties in the areas of Northwest Langley and Glen Valley, B.C., as well as Brae Island and McMillan Island, are on evacuation alert.

Township of Langley officials said door-to-door evacuation orders could be issued in areas unprotected by dikes if readings at the Mission gauge reach 6.3 metres.

By Saturday afternoon, water levels at the gauge were creeping toward 6.0 metres. The River Forecast Centre estimated they could reach 6.4 metres on Sunday and 6.57 metres on Monday.

Residents in the flood plain have been advised to have a plan in place, including arrangements to stay with family or friends and preparing emergency kits with clothing, medication and other necessities.

The River Forecast Centre said persistent warmer than normal temperatures across British Columbia for the past three weeks have led to a much earlier than normal runoff period for the Fraser River.

Okanagan Lake hit full pool today and is predicted to reach levels similar to last year in the coming weeks, Central Okanagan Emergency Operations said.

"Full pool" is the target set by the province to ensure adequate water supply through the summer.

Private property owners who experienced flooding last year are being encouraged to take measures to protect their properties by placing sandbags and removing items from basements and crawlspaces.

Boat launches throughout Okanagan Lake remain open, however boaters are cautioned that lake levels are high and they should watch for floating debris.

Grand Forks from above

Madison Erhardt

B.C.’s Interior continues to deal with severe flooding, but more help has arrived.

The first group of military personnel arrived Thursday in Grand Forks helping to sandbag and protect properties, and people, in the community.

Regional District of Kootenay Boundary's Emergency Operations Center took drone footage Friday along the Ruckle Addition area and by several riverbanks.

On Thursday, residents along South Ruckle were allowed home for roughly 12 hours to do what they could to protect and try and save their homes.

Environment Canada has lifted a special weather statement that forecast up to 40 millimetres of rain for the Boundary and Similkameen regions, but the affects of flooding still remain for much of the Southern Interior.

Flood warnings remain in effect for the Granby, Kettle and West Kettle rivers.

For more information on flood evacuations and alerts, click here.

To contact the Grand Forks Emergency Operations Centre, call 1-888-747-9119

First look in flooded homes

Some residents of flood-soaked Grand Forks got a first look back inside their homes on Friday.

Officials allowed evacuees back for a few hours to survey damage and collect valuables.

Jennifer Houghton sloshed through the floodwaters in hip waders to get to her front door.

Inside, calf-deep water surrounded everything.

"I don't even know what words to use to describe this right now," she told CTV. "It's shocking. It's heartbreaking. It's painful."

She hopes to clean up once the water recedes and apply for disaster assistance.

It's the second time she's been hit by flooding.

The floodwater is likely contaminated, and thousands of evacuees have been forced out of their homes for more than a week.

Police patrol neighbourhoods, and 100 Canadian Armed Forces soldiers arrived Friday to sandbag and reinforce dikes.

Residents Randy Harp and Sherri Singer were separated for days after flood barricades went up while Harp was at work.

"It was stressful as hell … My heart was back home with my dad and my lady," said Harp.

– with files from CTV Vancouver

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